Hidden figures – behind the movie

“Hidden figures” is a movie about a team of black women mathematicians who were vital in NASA during the early years of the space program. It reveals the untold story of the “human computers” who helped the success of the NASA moon landing in the 1960s. The main characters of the movie are Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). Their work sent the USA in front in the space race against the Soviet Union during the worst part of the cold war era, fueling the rivalry between Soviet and the US for the worse, and helping the USA eventually trump Soviet as the biggest super-power in the modern world.

John Glenn was a United States Marine Corps aviator, engineer, US senator, and astronaut. In 1962, he was the first American to orbit the earth, circling it three times. He was one of the Mercury Seven, militarily test pilots selected by NASA in 1959 to be the first astronauts of the USA. He was also in the army during WW2 and the Korean war. A true American hero who suited the role as the astronaut to the fullest. After his multiple careers, he hit his head in the bathtub, resigned from politics and became one of the executives at Royal crown Cola.
He started a senate career in Ohio in 1974, a career that would last until 1999.

The movie surprised me on how bright the women were, and that they were aware of the injustice being done to them. Not being allowed the same bathrooms, books or libraries was indeed an injustice, but that they were able to break out of this vicious cycle of oppression is beyond me. Such brave women! The movie therefore taught me a lot of things. Not only about the incredible work many “behind-the-scenes” people did in the 1960’s for NASA, but also about the daily life of colored people in a white dominant society. I believe that if this movie was to be used in education, it is important to discuss these topics lightly beforehand, this way the viewer/student knows what to focus on and think about while watching. Katherine Johnson continued to work for NASA for years after sending John Glenn into space. Mary became NASA’s first black female engineer and continued to work for NASA until 1985. Dorothy also continued to work for NASA in the Analysis and Computation Division and worked for the company for a total of 28 years.




Teaching the movie “Hidden Figures”


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